The Frame

So the idea of building a camper came after I spent the weekend in Bishop CA over Thanksgiving with a low in the single digits. I originally planed on living out of my truck with a LEER topper towing a trailer with my raft, kayaks and the rest of my gear. I built a deck for the bed with storage underneath which made it so I couldn’t sit up and really it was kind of cramped, especially with a dog even though he’s only 35 lbs. I’m also 6’3” and the bed of my truck is only 6’1”. I was worried about this from the beginning and I was working over plans in my head to make my topper pop up or out giving me space but nothing sounded like a good option. I thought about buying a camper but a truck camper runs $15k-$25k new and finding a used one for a small truck is a crap shoot. Selling the Taco and buying something like a van wasn’t an option; that truck is pretty much my dream car and I’m not giving it up. Over that weekend when the sun went down at 5pm and the temp dropped well below freezing, I conceded that I needed to just build a camper.

It’s not that I hadn’t thought of this before, I kicked around the idea a few times. I’ve just built enough things to know what a project like this would take and up until now I had dismissed the idea. I was only supposed to be in LA for a couple of months helping my old boss and friend while his crew was working a big job out of the country. 4 of his 6 man crew where installing glass guard rails on the balconies of a new hotel and condo in the Cayman Islands while work was still coming into the shop in LA. I was getting ready to hit the road and travel anyways so I offered to come out and help ease the work load. That couple of months had already turned into 5 months and this camper project was going to take 2-3 more months to complete. I really wanted to get on the road, I didn’t want to miss winter.

When I got back to the shop after my trip I was rolling ideas around and priced out different materials with our venders. Then I came across some 2”X2”X1/8” anodized aluminum I beam that was left over from a job we worked on 11 years ago when I worked here before, and there was more than enough to do my job. It is a specialty material that they never found another use for so it just sat for years. The job we were using it on was a Russian Orthodox Church in Hollywood off the 101 Fwy. We built the shingles and crosses for the cupolas on top of the church out of aluminum then had them powder coated. The I beams that were left over were used for the frames on the dormers with green shingles, we rolled them to that onion shape then sent them out for install. We just made parts, the church assembled and built everything themselves.

This was a really fun job to work on, each row had the same quantity of shingles so as the cupola got bigger and smaller in diameter the size and shape of the shingles changed. I had to draw each cupola in 3d in Auto Cad then figure the size and shape of each row. These were then cut out of flat material, .062 5052 aluminum, using the shops CNC turret punch. The shingles needed to have some dimension so we rolled the front edge using dies cut on our CNC mill and then stamped with rubber dies in the press. A new die was cut out of ½” aluminum plate for each individual row, over 25 different dies per cupola. Well, there were 3 different sizes of cupola, 1 big, 4 med, and 8 small. The shingles on the dormers were much easier, there was only one size and shape for all of them.

Now that I had my material and permission from the boss to use the equipment on the weekends and after work I started putting the frame together. I started with the floor and side walls.

I made jambs for the windows and set it up so I can spray foam insulate inside the jamb.

I then used the tube roller to roll a 25′ radius into the roof beams and a 7’6″ radius into the nose beam to shed wind resistance and rain and snow. Then started assembling the main frame.

After the main part of the frame was assembled I was able to frame the back and add gussets as well as mounts for tie downs and jacks.

With the frame complete it’s time to start skinning.

A walk around video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6cmuAliw40

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